Having been a tournament director for almost 15 years, and participating in quite a few as well, I thought I would share some of the tips that many successful teams, myself included, have used over the years. Many may seem like a no-brainer, but put them all together and you will have a solid foundation no matter where, and how, you fish.

1-Have a game plan, and stick to it. If it is a lake you are familiar with, you know what it takes to catch fish. Confidence is key. Designate a Team Captain, one who will make the decisions on the ice when changes must be made. Live or die by those decisions, but arguing about your next move on the ice takes you out of the game mentally, and wastes time.

2-I once heard a teammate comment to the emcee at a very prestigious event..."I really don't know what my partner was using or doing, he was fishing his fish, and I was fishing mine"...that is the wrong answer!!! You and your partner should be communicating every detail, as it happens. If you hook the fish, communicate depth, bait, color, aggression level of the fish, your jigging cadence, every detail that might help your partner land the next fish. If at all feasible, rush to your partners hole, remove the transducer, clear ice chips and help land the fish. Congratulate each other on every fish, keep your mental game high.

3-Don't get too caught up in what the other teams are doing. On tournament day, you, your partner and your fish are what matters. Sure, if you see or hear that they are doing something clearly different than you and having success, by all means adjust, but watching THEM and taking yourself out of the game will be a detriment to you.

4-Your equipment MUST be top notch. Fresh bait, sharp hooks, fresh line, and as many rods rigged and ready to go as you can possibly accommodate. Have a spare everything, from another flasher, to another auger, to anything that might break or fail...Wasting time tying a new jig on means your line is out of the water...have another rod ready to go...and another and...

5-Lastly, debrief after the event while everything is fresh in your mind. What worked, what didn't, what you might do different next time. Take notes and do not ignore even the littlest details.

I hope these tips an ideas help you, not just when competing, but everytime you hit the water. Many of them are what makes a successful guide as well, and keeps clients coming back year after year!

Tight lines, and take a kid fishing!

Mike Howe